Women of God

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Women of God
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Women of God

I Timothy 2:11-15

I had the privilege, or misfortune, of growing up in the 1960s and 70s. During that time, the concept of authority was trashed in favor of personal autonomy. The mantra of that era was “no one is going to tell me how to live.” It led to the wholesale rejection of moral standards.

The young adults of that time eventually grew up – at least they got older. Yet many of them never abandoned their childish ideas about freedom. They carried these with them into places of influence and authority.

We believe there are objective moral standards by which we can measure right and wrong. Others believe that right and wrong are subjective. They can only be decided by the individual in the particular circumstance. We call that situational ethics.           

This development has impacted the church. Many professing Christians no longer accept the Bible as authoritative. Many children from Christian families are being indoctrinated in our public school system, militantly opposed to biblical principles and moral absolutes. Or they live in a home where lip service is given to the Bible, but daily life has little difference from unbelievers. Sadly, many church educational institutions undermine biblical authority, too.

When biblical authority is rejected in one area, it doesn’t stop there! Unbelief is like a cancer that spreads from diseased to healthy tissue. One of those areas where Scriptural authority is rejected is the role of women in the home and church. I will present my teaching from this text as “Women of God.” Listen as I read First Timothy 2:11-15. 

In our text, we discover several FACETS that describe “Women of God.”

The First FACET is,

An Attentive Learner

We observe this facet in verses eleven and twelve, where Paul gives specific instructions regarding a woman’s position under a man’s authority. God’s structure of authority was established explicitly in Creation and reaffirmed after sin entered the human family. In First Corinthians 11:3 Paul outlines this structure for us. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

Whether you or I appreciate God’s structure of authority is beside the point! His design establishes His purposes. We can accept it and experience His blessing, or we can reject it and suffer the consequences. But we can’t change what God has decreed or established.

In these verses, Paul makes it clear that, in the church and home, women are not to be in a leadership position over their husbands or other men in spiritual matters. Instead, they are to be attentive learners. This doesn’t mean they surrender their minds and consciences to man but that thy voluntarily take the position of learners. The verb tense informs us that this will be an ongoing discipline in their lives. 

What are they to learn? Instruction concerning the facts and plan of salvation; learning with a moral bearing and responsibility. There are several reasons for this emphasis on understanding spiritual truth. It is necessary in developing the two additional aspects of helper and mother that we’ll look at later.

This learning is to take place in a specific manner: “…in silence with all subjection.” I know that particular phrase will cause some reaction, but it’s not mine; it’s God’s Word. Let’s look at it more closely. 

First, let’s consider the idea of keeping silent in the public assembly of the Believers. This teaching is also in First Corinthians 14:34 and 35. So, Paul is teaching a universal principle. It bears witness to what Paul says five times in writing to the Corinthians; “what I teach, I teach everywhere in every church.” 

Silence can mean the absence of all speech. However, it’s not limited to that meaning. It can also mean tranquility, quietness, and peace. According to First Peter 3:4, a woman must develop “…a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Just as her dress is not to be flashy but subdued (verse 9), her attitude toward learning should demonstrate this same quality. This quietness is necessary because of her position in God’s order. She is subject to male spiritual leadership in the home and the church.

The context of this teaching is essential. False teaching existed in the church at Ephesus, so Paul instructed Timothy to guard against the spread of such error. His Spirit-inspired words are just as applicable today as when he wrote them! 

Unfortunately, the concept of submission has been abused. That has given it a bad name and has led to all kinds of wrong ideas. Submission to authority has nothing to do with personal worth. The private in the army is not inferior to the lieutenant or captain; he has a different rank and function. Jesus Christ, though equal with the Father, voluntarily submitted Himself to God and even to his human parents! That does not diminish Him or somehow make Him worth less than God the Father.       

So, it is with man and woman. Woman is not inferior because she has a different role. In fact, God gave women a unique role because she is the only one who can nurture new life. Without her unique role, the human race could not survive! She can’t produce that life by herself, but she bears more of the responsibility for it. In God’s plan, man and woman will find their highest satisfaction and joy when they accept and fulfill their God-designed roles.

Much more could be said about how this concept of submission impacts a woman’s ability to be an attentive learner. But let’s move on now to the second facet of women of God.

The Second FACET is,

A Suitable Helper

The helper role is God’s original intention for Eve and women. Paul grounds this teaching in the order of Creation and the circumstances that led to Adam and Eve’s estrangement from God. In the original Creation, Eve’s role as Helper was God’s plan. Adam would lead, Eve would help him carry out the work God assigned to them. Their roles were established but there was no command for submission because sin had not yet marred God’s perfect Creation. There was no desire on the part of the woman to usurp her husband’s role. But when sin enters the picture, submission is commanded.

From Creation, God uniquely designed man and woman to express His likeness. Neither of them, alone, adequately expresses the divine image. This first pair of humans was created to complement or complete each other. Some will react to the suggestion that a woman needs a man to be complete. But the converse is also true—a man needs a woman to be complete. Complement means something that fills up, completes, or makes better or perfect.

I do not mean that singles are incomplete, abnormal, or of less value than married persons. According to God’s Word, singles have a unique role in His plan and the ordering of His kingdom, but singleness is not normative. If it were, the human race would soon die out.

I believe that part of the judgment on Eve for her sin was because God had designed her to be a help to her husband, and she failed miserably. If that makes some men feel a bit smug, remember, Adam also failed miserably in his role. Genesis 3 tells us Adam was with Eve when the serpent tempted her, but he failed to lead. Adam was passive and didn’t speak up. His sin was greater because he disobeyed with full knowledge of his actions; Eve was deceived.

While this text reminds us that a woman is forbidden from exercising spiritual leadership over men in the church, many avenues of service are available to her as a helper. In chapter 5 of this letter, some of them are listed. In his letter to Titus, Paul explicitly instructs older women to teach younger women. I can think of several godly, older women who made an impression on my young life as my Sunday School teachers. I also knew others who were missionaries, prayer warriors, and generous givers. 

However, the Scriptures do prohibit women from teaching men from the Scriptures in a public setting. This includes both the activity and the formal office. For God’s own reasons, some of which we know and some we may not know, this is His plan, and we will benefit from our obedience even if we don’t fully understand it.

Ladies, if you’re listening to this teaching, I hope you will not let anyone rob you of the special place of service God has for you as a woman!

The Final FACET is,

A Devoted Mother

As I discuss this facet, I urge you single ladies not to tune me out. Even though you may not have biological children, God’s Word says you can have a “spiritual” family. As I said earlier, there were godly women (some of them single) who impacted my life as a child.

One interesting fact to ponder in this text is, sin entered the human family through the woman, Eve. However, salvation also entered the human family through a woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus. While I don’t see this fact as the primary thrust of Paul’s teaching here, it certainly is worthwhile meditating on this truth. God’s redemption, mercy, and love are written all over it! It could also have a bearing on what I will say next.

What does Paul mean when he says that a woman will be saved in childbearing? Paul could be refuting the false teaching in Ephesus by those forbidding marriage. You can read about that in chapter four of this letter. Also note the switch from singular to plural in this sentence. “Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” Is this a reference to Genesis 3:15 and the Messiah coming through Eve’s descendants and the impact that would have on all mothers?

It’s God’s design from Creation for most women to marry and bear children. This is evident in the make-up of a woman’s body and how it functions. I know women who were, for some reason or another, unable to have children, and it was a difficult thing to work through; it was a grief to them. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Even though women have been forbidden a leadership role in the church, Paul points out that they can have a major impact on both the church and the world by virtue of being faithful, loving, godly mothers and grandmothers. In the sphere of her home a mother will find the greatest fulfillment and have her greatest impact. One commentator said: “Perhaps we underestimate home influence and overestimate pulpit influence.” I say amen to that! 

Some professing Christian women today have unwittingly bought into the false premise that “motherhood is a second-class calling.” Yet, even after decades of indoctrination with this godless idea, many women who have reached the pinnacle of their careers in business, law, politics, and education – still have a desire to bear children.

In verse 15, Paul states that women will be saved (sodzo), have spiritual health, and have a full and meaningful life as mothers if they continue in faith, love, holiness, and so on.

The salvation Paul is talking about here is not the salvation that provides for our justification in the sight of God. That doesn’t come by any work we can do. The context shows how a woman, while being prohibited from the pulpit, can find her greatest fulfillment, her greatest wholeness, as a godly mother. Being a mother has a glory and dignity all of its own.  

Interestingly, the reality of this truth is becoming more apparent in our time. Unfortunately, many couples today choose not to have children; they have pets instead. So, guess what? Those women willing to have children are beginning to impact the culture disproportionately. Recent studies show that people with strong religious faith are much more likely to have more children. So, the meek may inherit the earth in a way they hadn’t anticipated!

Faithful, godly mothers are the unsung heroes of history. Only eternity will reveal the scope of their contribution to expanding God’s kingdom. Think of godly men you know about, historically or even today, who have had a significant spiritual impact on the church or society, and most likely, there is a godly mother behind each one of them. 

As I look at this text and my dear wife’s example, my heart swells with joy and thankfulness to God. She is the embodiment of this text, and I thank God for her every day! She has invested her life’s prime energy and drive in training, teaching, and serving the eight children God has given us. And now, she is similarly blessing our grandchildren! She is rewarded with the fruit of her labors as she sees God using them in His kingdom.

There is much more that could be said on this subject. We’ve barely scratched the surface. But at a minimum, I hope I have stimulated your appetite for further study of God’s Word. If what I shared with you today sounds archaic or foreign, that indicates how much the world’s ideas have influenced us. Let’s get back to the book and the Word of God as we define and practice what it means to be women of God.

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